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As courses at the new Science Museum Group Academy begin, Kate Davis and Micol Molinari explore how asking questions about Harry Potter and Fortnite could help encourage science engagement.

At the start of October, we launched the Science Museum Group Academy, with Founding Partner BP.  The Academy is the brand new home for our science engagement training for educators, STEM and museum/science centre professionals.

The first science engagement courses delivered in our new Academy classroom took place last month for both primary and secondary school teachers. This course shares our creative approach and philosophy – focusing on different hands-on activities that teachers can use in the classroom to engage their students.

Throughout the day teachers experience the techniques for themselves and reflect on how they can implement the ideas in their own classrooms, helping pupils to make personal connections with science, both in school and in their everyday lives.

All of our courses are underpinned by academic research around science engagement and in particular science capital. We integrate the principles of good practice from the research into all our courses, both by discussing the theory, and trying out practical activities to demonstrate how they can be used in school.

For example, one activity called Powerful Questions encourages teachers to generate questions or statements that link students’ interests and experiences with the science concepts they want to teach.

This approach shows the value of considering their students’ interests, knowledge and experiences in finding ways to make the science content they teach meaningful and relevant. Their powerful questions provide an effective way to get students to start thinking and talking about science, while casually reinforcing that there is a scientific aspect to many of their interests.

We generated some great powerful questions in these first courses, including ‘Harry Potter: boy wizard or scientist?’ and ‘Which of your senses is most important when playing Fortnite?’.

The energy in the room during these courses was really positive as teachers wondered, explored, discussed ideas – and really enjoyed themselves in the process.

We had some brilliant responses to our activities and everyone shared their experiences and ideas, inspiring each other as well as us.

One teacher commented on how ‘supportive and not intimidating’ the course had been, and another said how great it was that our resources use ‘every day materials and equipment which made them cheap and easy’ to put in to practice. Overall the feedback was great, with possibly the most rewarding comment being that it had ‘reminded me why we teach children science’.

Our next Academy courses at the Science Museum are happening in January and we’ll also be delivering training at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester from February. We can’t wait to meet our next groups of teachers and hopefully inspire them to engage all their students with the wonders of STEM.

Find out more about our upcoming science engagement courses here.